That the Committee on Procedure and Privileges be requested to consider and report as to whether it is necessary or desirable that there should be an amendment of the Standing Orders to permit of amendments providing for the use or knowledge of the Irish language being moved to Bills in any cases other than those in which such amendments are now admissible.
I have put this motion down for the purpose of getting formal consideration given to a matter which, I think, is of considerable importance from the national point of view. Our Standing Orders, our rules of procedure and our standard of relevancy are, with certain adaptations, those that are in force in Great Britain. I do not think that any objection can be taken to that because there is a long history of successful Parliamentary Government and of Parliamentary institutions behind it. I am not suggesting that we should depart, to any great extent, from that. I would not suggest even to this Committee if it were of that view that we should depart, to any great extent, from that, but I do think that certain modifications are desirable in this country because of the fact that we have in our Constitution a provision which states that the Irish language is the national language and that English shall also be the official language. That position does not exist in Great Britain, and the sort of problems which, I think, arise here cannot arise in Great Britain where they have only one official language— English.
I do not want to occupy a great deal of time in discussing this motion, but I would point out that we have the provision, for example, that all our laws are to be made out in the two languages. We have even a provision here in the Seanad that all official orders and documents shall be printed in the two languages. It seems to me that that being so, it is desirable that there should be power, in Bills not dealing specifically with the Irish language, to propose suitable amendments to provide for its use and for a certain knowledge of it. In my view, an amendment that would be perfectly correct with relation to the Irish language would, of course, be out of order if it had reference, say, to French, German, or Italian, or to some other language which had no place in our Constitution. I do not want to go over the question of the Galway Bill, but it ought be possible, for instance, in this House to move an amendment that by-laws made under a statute of the Oireachtas should be got out in the two languages in the same way as the statute of the Oireachtas itself and the documents of this House are got out. To take this one case, I think it is desirable that the Committee of Procedure and Privileges should look into this matter.
I do not think it is desirable that we should simply take the same attitude in regard to an amendment relating to the Irish language as would be taken if it was offered in the British Parliament, because of its special position in the State. Some Senators may hold that if anything is to be done for or in relation to the Irish language it should be done only by a special Bill. I do not think that way. The situation of the Irish language here is that such work for it has to be done piecemeal. Conditions differ in every area in the country. A thing that might be possible in one place would not be possible in another place. Something that is possible in relation to one type of business would not be possible in relation to another type of business. In one place you have a great number of people who know Irish, and, in other places, they know no Irish; so that any attempt to make them use the Irish language only would be a hardship. In some businesses it might be reasonable to require that the Irish language should be officially used, but in relation to another type of business that would be unreasonable. It is necessary to deal with the language in a piecemeal way, and not actually to deal with its position in statutes. I think the Oireachtas should take power on suitable occasions to insert such provisions.
While I am suggesting that this question be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, I would not suggest any extreme steps. I am never in favour of extreme steps, because I recognise that extreme measures of any sort produce reactions and generally do more harm than good. I do not want to introduce American standards of relevancy. I understand that in some American legislature, when there is a Bill before the House, dealing, perhaps with fisheries, it is possible for someone to move that dental treatment be given children in a particular State. I am not suggesting that anything of that nature should be done, but rather that we should so arrange that when something is ordered to be done by statute, if the Seanad thinks it suitable, it should be able to insert amendments providing that use should be made of the Irish language in the doing of that thing. The Oireachtas has resolved that the Irish language is the national language and two successive Governments have definitely adopted the policy of trying to revive the language. Nothing could be more futile than for us to give time and energy to a task like that, and yet not to take the necessary steps to make the work successful. A great many of the things that are necessary to make the work that is being done successful and fruitful, are matters of detail, to provide a way forward for the language here and there, according as it is possible to make an advance. I suggest that there is a matter here that deserves formal consideration, and I urge the House to allow the motion to go to the Committee of Procedure and Privileges so that they may consider it and make whatever recommendations are necessary. I remind the House that if it becomes possible to move amendments, in cases where it is not possible at present, in view of rulings that have been given, it does not follow that the Seanad need adopt any amendment that is offered. The Seanad will always be free to reject anything that is put before it. I only ask the House to consider whether it is not right that it should put itself in the position of being able to consider amendments in such cases.